With assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country of Georgia has launched a hepatitis C elimination program aimed at reducing disease transmission and meeting increased demand for diagnosis and treatment, report Dr. Kiren Mitruka and coauthors in the July 24 CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Georgia has one of the world’s highest HCV prevalence rates, at 6.7%. To prepare for the launch of the program, efforts focused on describing HCV epidemiology, evaluating laboratory and health care capacity, and conducting program monitoring and evaluation, the report said.

A population-based serosurvey began in Georgia in May 2015, and seven sites have since opened to diagnose and treat HCV patients.

Results from the first phase of the program, which focused on improving access to affordable diagnostics and treatment for HCV patients with severe liver disease, found that 6,491 patients sought treatment and 6,177 (95.2%) initiated diagnostic work-up through July 3, 2015. Among these, 1,519 (24.6%) completed work-up, 1,474 (97.0%) of whom initiated treatment, the investigators reported.

Persisting challenges include the asymptomatic, chronic nature of HCV, which may result in delayed diagnosis, and ongoing transmission in health care settings and among hard to reach populations with the possibility of reinfection.

To address these obstacles, Georgia’s “comprehensive elimination plan” will cover advocacy, prevention, surveillance, testing, and access to care.

“Monitoring and evaluation will continue, and efforts are ongoing to develop an external QA/QC system to be used by laboratories to achieve and maintain biologic safety and quality diagnostic standards,” Dr. Mitruka and colleagues said.

“Georgia’s elimination program can provide information and experience that will assist similar efforts in other parts of the world,” the authors concluded.

Read the full report here: MMWR 2015 July 24 .

ginews@gastro.org

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